Lapland: North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia by Erin Dahl - Read Online
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Lapland in the far north Europe is an adventure of a lifetime for travelers who have an opportunity to tour the region and explore its natural wonders. The landscape varies from undulating fells to vast forests, from flat marshlands to fish-rich rivers, and from snow-capped mountains to spectacular fjords. Lapland: North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia is a guidebook for all travelers who want to experience the nature, Sami culture, sceneries and plunge into adventures the region has to offer.

The book provides all the essential information about Lapland for independent travelers and for tourists who are traveling with a group. It features special sections for road travelers who are new to Nordic seasons and road network. The book provides plenty of tips for the road, including route suggestions and maps.

The reindeer is the iconic animal of Lapland, but there is plenty of wildlife to discover in the region. Inland fell regions have their own flora and fauna, whereas coastal areas support a totally different wildlife. Numerous natural parks are excellent places for exploring the nature, even though in Lapland, wilderness is practically everywhere. Everyman’s Rights have long traditions in Scandinavian countries. The book explains what the Rights really mean and what they allow for visitors. Common peculiarities of the Sami and Scandinavian cultures are explained as well, including the all-important sauna etiquette.

Sami people inhabited Lapland long before the current population moved in to the region. Sami history and places where you can explore the culture are highlighted in the book. Special features include information on the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and tips for road travelers for reaching the continental Europe’s northernmost place, Nordkapp (North Cape).

The book features hundreds of photographs and maps that help you plan your trip, and tour the places that specifically interest you and your travel companions.

Published: Klaava Media on
ISBN: 9789527074725
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North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia

Erin Dahl


North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia

Klaava Travel Guide

ISBN 978-952-7074-72-5 (EPUB)

Copyright Erin Dahl and Klaava Media / Andalys Ltd

Photographs and video clips by Ari Hakkarainen, except for images credited to other photographers.

Publisher: Klaava Media / Andalys Ltd

February 2017



Lapland in a Nutshell

Lapland on the Map


When to visit

Essential Tips for Travelers

Getting There and Traveling in the Region






Car and motorbike

Driving from Continental Europe to Lapland

Sami People

Sami culture

Sami languages



Nordkapp (North Cape)

Modern pilgrimage

Common driving routes to Nordkapp

Nordkapp weather

First, the Kings arrived, and tourists followed

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

Viewing the Northern Lights

Applications and alert services for the Northern Lights

Lapland Top 5

Top 5 sights

Top 5 scenic drives

Top 5 places of Sami culture

Top 5 towns

Top 5 fell sceneries

Top 5 fjords

Top 5 destinations for hiking

Top 5 ski resorts

Traffic Hubs

Sights, Towns, Villages and Resorts

National Parks

Everyman's Rights in Scandinavia

About wilderness cabins




Lake and river fish

Sea life





Arctic fox



Dog breeds of Lapland



Bear and wolf watching

Berry and mushroom picking


Cross-country skiing



Downhill skiing


Gold panning

Hiking and trekking



Snow mobiles

Whale watching






About food in Lapland

Tips for the road

Scandinavian food

Bars and cafés


Practical Information

Brief Histories of Sweden, Norway, and Finland

Country Facts

These reindeer seem to master the traffic rules in Kilpisjärvi, Finland.

The city of Tromsö, Norway.

A Sami teepee in Abisko, Sweden.

Borselv village by the Barents sea.


The mystical, exotic Lapland where reindeers roam on mountains and in vast forests, where the Northern Lights shed light on pure white snow during the dark winter, and where the sun never sets in summer is a land of Sami people. Lapland and the Sami welcome travelers who love the great outdoors, untouched nature, and peaceful life in small villages.

Except for a few small towns and villages, practically the whole vast area of Lapland is wilderness where fells, rivers, lakes, marshland, and forests provide a vast playground for the wildlife. Reindeer herders may not be thrilled find traces of bears, wolves, or wolverines nearby, whereas tourists would be excited to spot a predator in the wild (it is extremely unlikely to encounter them).

Hiking on fells, along river canyons or across marshlands is a fabulous way to enjoy Lapland. Mountainbikers have also discovered Lapland’s trails. In winter, skiing and dogsledding bring visitors to ski resorts and cottages. Fishing in rivers, lakes and the sea is a popular activity in summer among locals and visitors alike.

A popular method for tourists to absorb the landscapes and sceneries of Lapland is road travel. Roads maybe few, distances long and services infrequent, but very few destinations in the world has the same variety, wildlife and rough beauty as Lapland. Nordkapp (North Cape) is the modern pilgrimage destination located at the end of the world; it is the northernmost point of Europe. In Nordkapp, the road ends into the Arctic Ocean.

Touring Lapland by car, motorbike or bicycle rarely presents a dull moment. Majestic, often lush, inland fell sceneries change to rough and scarce Arctic landscape in the north as the Arctic Ocean gets closer. Following fell rivers that flow west introduces yet another scenery as the landscape transforms from fells to steep mountains and gorges, and picture-perfect fjords provide shelter for residents from the Atlantic Ocean.

Lapland is all about nature and respect for the environment. People who live in Lapland say they have eight seasons: first snow, Christmas, frosty winter, crusty snow, departure of ice, midnight sun, harvest season and colorful autumn. The traditional life and livelihood has been tightly coupled with seasons that have determined how reindeers have behaved, and how hunting and fishing have been conducted.

For visitors, the peak seasons are summer, colorful autumn, Christmas and crusty snow (spring).

Lapland covers a vast area in northern Scandinavia. The northernmost parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden make up the region that is referred to as Lapland in this book. Geographically, the area north of the Arctic Circle is regarded as Lapland, which included the north-west corner of Russia as well. The Russian Lapland is not covered in this book. The focus is on the Scandinavian Lapland alone.

This book is organized by key places, national parks, sights, and activities. As a large and diverse region, there are so many attractive destinations, pretty sights, and activities to experience that it may feel overwhelming when you start planning your trip. Top 5 lists help you in the planning process because they rank the most popular and spectacular places, sights, activities, and touring routes.

All the names of places have been written in local languages in this book, because that’s what you will see in each country. Sometimes, you may spot road signs and other texts in Sami language as well, but the second language on the signs is always the national language.

The focus of this book is on the sights, nature, attractions, landscape, activities, Sami culture, touring, and managing travel in this large region. Lapland is all about the great outdoors, and less about shopping, Michelin-star restaurants, urban life or luxury hotels. That’s why the book addresses wildlife, national parks, everyman’s rights, fells and fjords rather than malls, hotel gyms or restaurant reviews.

A journey to Lapland is an adventure you will remember for the rest of your life. Plan your own tour to the North and let this guidebook help you on your way.

Photo by Dmitry Chulov.

Lapland in a Nutshell

So much space and so few people. Wilderness. Reindeer. Unique, varying landscape. Hiking, skiing, touring. Fells and fjords. There are many reasons that make Lapland so special, and why it attracts ever more visitors.

The statistics tell us that there are about 200,000 reindeer in Finnish Lapland, but only 180,000 people live in there (the vast majority of them in Rovaniemi, Tornio and Kemi). 380 000 people live in Norwegian Lapland, practically all of them on the west coast. The large inland region of Finnmark (the traditional Sami region) is a home for 75 000 people. In Swedish Lapland, the number of inhabitants is 285 000, but a great majority of them live on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia.

Let’s try to measure the region: if we travel via major roads in Lapland, what are the distances between some of the key places?

From the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi to Kirkenes, Norway, the distance is 520 km/323 miles.

From the Sami town of Inari, Finland to the university town of Tromsö in the west, the distance is 600 km/373 miles.

From the Arctic Circle at Saltfjell in Norway to Nordkapp the distance is 1100 km/684 miles.

From Luleå, Sweden to Svolvär on Lofoten the distance is 720 km/447 miles.

If you only intend to use distances to plan your travel times, take into account that road travel in Norway tends to be slower than in Finland and Sweden. The landscape varies a great deal in different parts of Lapland, affecting roads and travel times as well.

Four official languages are spoken in Lapland: Finnish and Swedish in Finland, Norwegian in Norway and Swedish in Sweden. In addition, Sami is an official language in some municipalities (actually, there are multiple Sami languages, but that’s another story). English and German are widely spoken and, especially, in the east near the Russian border, Russian is understood in many places as well.

Each country has its own currency. Finland has joined Euro, but both Sweden and Norway have their own krona. To be perfectly clear: the name of the currency is the same, the values are roughly the same, the notes and coins are so much alike they are easy to confuse, but Swedish and Norwegian krona are different currencies.

The Sami have tended their reindeer in Lapland without paying much attention to national borders that have moved back and forth during the centuries. The only border that they - and everyone else - have to mind is the Russian border (because a visa is required). Free travel and movement between Scandinavian countries for the citizens of these countries has been possible for more than 60 years.

Finland and Sweden are EU members, but Norway hasn't joined the union. Nonetheless, Norway has signed the Schengen Agreement allowing free transit from other Schengen countries (this was the situation in 2016).

The largest towns in Lapland are Luleå in Sweden, Tromsö in Norway, and Rovaniemi in Finland. The population of Luleå is about 75 000, Tromsö and Rovaniemi have slightly smaller populations. These towns are also the only places in Lapland where you can find something that even remotely resembles city life. Small towns and villages that provide only a few essential services are typical in Lapland.

A fairly recent development in Lapland is the emergence of resorts, primarily in Finland and Sweden. The largest resorts, like Ylläs, Levi, Saariselkä, and Riksgränsen are modern, self contained small towns with practically all the services modern life entails.

Fells and fjords, reindeer, wildlife, and Sami people are what ultimately makes Lapland so unique. The best thing is that there is space for everyone. A lot of space - most of it untouched nature.

Lapland on the map

The northernmost region of Europe, Lapland, comprises provinces from three countries: Sweden, Norway and Finland. The geographical Lapland is defined as the region north of the Arctic Circle, which covers the northwest corner of Russia as well, but this book deals with Scandinavian Lapland only.

The terms Scandinavia and Nordic Countries are often used interchangeably. The strict definitions of the terms are as follows: the Nordic Countries consist of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Scandinavia is the large piece of land where Norway, Sweden, and Finland's northern regions are located. Nonetheless, Denmark is usually regarded as a core Scandinavian country as well.

The region where the indigenous people of Lapland, the Sami, conduct their traditional livelihood is known as Sápmi (Sami Homeland). Sami Homeland is somewhat larger than geographical Lapland. It reaches further south along the mountains that range between Sweden and Norway.

Lapland region is located north of the Arctic Circle. The region where the Sami live is shown in light blue, but the majority of the Sami and reindeer live in the area painted dark blue.


As the presence of the Arctic Circle in Lapland implies, the climate is arctic. There are, however, big differences between regions. Coastal areas in the west get far more rain than inland. Temperatures are more moderate along the coast because the sea balances the periods of extreme cold in winter. In mountainous areas, the difference between day- and nighttime temperatures can be significant even in summer. Fjords protect coastal towns from strong winds, whereas inland mountain plateaus and fells can be windy any time of year (wind is usually welcomed in summer because of moquitoes, but not always in winter).

The average temperatures of three towns in Lapland indicate that inland is colder than coast during winter, but most rain (throughout the year) falls on the coast. Average temperatures give you a rough idea about the climate, but in reality, temperatures vary considerably. In inland areas, it is common to have temperatures, like -30 - -40 Celsius/-22 - -40 Fahrenheit in mid-winter. On a sunny day in summer, 25 Celsius/77 Fahrenheit is fairly common. On the coast, for instance, in Tromsö, the variation in summer and winter temperatures is not as extreme as inland.

Average temperatures in Sodankylä, Finland.

Average rainfall in Sodankylä, Finland.

Average temperatures in Tromsö, Norway.

Average rainfall in Tromsö, Norway.

Average temperatures in Kiruna, Sweden.

When to visit

Summer is short in the north, but the days are long – never-ending days someone might think. The months of July and August bring hikers, fishermen, cyclists, kayakers, photographers, all kinds of outdoor lovers and sightseers to Lapland. The length of summer varies depending on the location in Lapland. Summer is longer on coastal regions and shorter on mountain plateaus, but in any case, July and August are summer months in the whole region.

For outdoors activities in summer, July and August are the best months to visit Lapland. They are the warmest months, and it rarely rains for long periods. Only the highest mountains peaks are covered in snow. Water in rivers, lakes and the sea remains cool throughout the summer.

In summer, daytime temperatures can reach 25 Celsius/77 Fahrenheit, but inland nighttime temperatures may fall to 5 Celsius/41 Fahrenheit. On coastal areas, day- and nighttime temperatures don’t vary that much.

Autumn season in Lapland is in September - October.  Particularly early autumn from mid-September to early October is the favorite season of hikers. Leafy trees, bushes and even low-growing ground vegetation change colors, turning from green to yellow, red, orange and to all colors in between. An added bonus in the autumn is that mosquitoes are gone (until the next summer), and there is a possibility to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Nights can be frosty, and it rains more than in the summer, but autumn still is Scandinavian hikers’ favorite Lapland season.

Lapland gets plenty of snow in the winter. The landscape is covered by a white blanket, turning it into a completely different world than it is in summer or autumn. Winters are cold and dark. Christmas is a busy season not only in Rovaniemi Santa Claus Park, but in all ski resorts as well.

Most Lapland lovers wait until spring before they return to enjoy skiing, dog sledding, snow mobile safaris and other activities in snowy landscape. The high season for snowy activities is in March and April when the days are quite long, daytime temperatures are outdoors-friendly and often, sunshine reflects from pure white snow.

Links to national weather services for detailed up-to-date forecasts:




Essential Tips for Travelers

The culture in Lapland and interaction with people is slightly different than it is in the southern parts of Scandinavian countries. The far north is a scarcely populated region where earning a living has always